tv Origins of the Cell Phone CSPAN August 2, 2014 8:30am-9:50am EDT
these are beneath the statues at one entrance of this beautiful building which preserve the drama and romance of america's history. ♪ >> this weekend, book tv and american history tv take you on a trip across the country with the literary life of various locales including the beauty of the point roberts and in bellingham washington and the history of macon, georgia's r&b
music and the restoration of the super saver at 100 fighter. see the laboratories of thomas edison in fort myers and hear the voices of them mormon tabernacle choir and salt lake city today at noon eastern on book tv and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on american history tv on c-span3. next, we will hear from martin cooper, a motorola researcher who headed a team that invented the first cell -tach and1973, the dyna became the first person ever to make a call on the mobile phone. -- on a mobile phone. the phone cost almost $4000 when it was offered for sale in 1984. the smithsonian national is his aim of american history hosted this hour-long event. >> before i invite art and marty up to the stage, i have one piece of house business.
which probably, in this context, is ironic but i do have to ask you to turn off your cell phone. that said, thank you for coming, and i will turn the microphone over to art and our speaker, marty cooper. thank you very much. [applause] >> are we turned on? >> anybody that cannot hear me, say aye. >> welcome, everybody. welcome to the smithsonian institution. i have been looking forward to this for quite some time. >> thanks for inviting me. >> you brought forth probably the most ubiquitous technology on the planet right now.
it is a technology that is a game changer for technology. to begin with, it is still evolving. it is a platform for all kinds of other technologies that are spawned from it. it is having huge social impacts. humans are the ultimate social animal, and this has to be the ultimate expansion of human beings, technologically. i want to start with the invention itself. this is something i know fascinates everybody here. i want to re-create that moment or moments of discovery of this phone. let us start with the simple question of coordinates. when did it happen, and where were you? >> the time was 1973. actually, november 1973. it was in my office is in illinois. i worked for motorola at the time.
just to give you a little flavor for what things were like in 1973, we did not have the internet. we did not have digital cameras. we did not have personal computers. we did not have large scale integrated circuits. these were really the old days. >> ok. they were primitive times. [laughter] was there a moment of invention? and if so, when was that moment? >> i do not think inventions ever happen at a specific moment. it is like you spend your whole life building up to having an idea. i had been working for motorola for many years at that time. the cell phone was not my first invention. they were all in communications. but necessity is the mother of invention. the reason my colleagues and i -- and by the way, there were a lot of people involved in bringing the cell phone into
commercial use. the idea to build the first one was mine, but it took a huge number of people even to build that phone. the concept of cellular telephony was invented by bell laboratories. actually, that was an invention that kind of group starting in 1947, if you can imagine. that was really the old days. somebody had an idea, and somebody else improved it a little bit. not until 1969 -- at&t were the biggest company in the world at that time. if you wanted to have a telephone in the united states, you had to get it from at&t, and they would not even sell it to you. they would only rent it to you. they were a monopoly. they announced in 1969 that they were going to build this new idea called cellular radio. you can tell an engineer made up
that name, because for most people, cellular does not mean a thing. then, they announced weather conditions were. -- what their conditions were. first of all, they said there is no organization in the world that has enough money or enough technology to build this new system. we want a monopoly, just like we have had in every other telephone business. the second thing they said is, our understanding of what the market is, this is going to be car telephones. we did not believe in either of those things at motorola. first of all, we did not like monopolies. we believe in competition. we wanted an opportunity to participate. the second thing we believed is that people are basically mobile. just think about it. take a look at what happens on the beltway.
we want the freedom to be able to walk around. all that traffic. you get the feeling like nobody is wear them want to be. -- is where they want to be. everybody wants to be someplace else. [laughter] for 100 years, the telephone company told us, if we wanted to talk to somebody at a distance, we had to be wired to our houses. we had to be chained to our desks. now, they say, we want to free you from that wire. we are going to trap you in your car. that did not make any sense to us at all. [laughter] then, we discovered that the fcc, the government organization that assigns these radio frequencies, are about to make a decision. that is when things got dicey, and in november -- got dicey, in november of 1972. it sounded like they were going to make a decision that at&t was going to get their way. that is when i decided, we have to do something really profound.
we have to do a dazzling demonstration. and so i gathered together -- >> we are going to get to the demonstration in a minute. there are some steps in between. >> all right. to be continued. >> definitely to be continued. let me ask you this. you were at motorola at the time. was there something special about being there, where you were, at motorola? was there something about the corporate culture, the local culture in that area, that spawned this? or the people? was there something special about that time and place that made it happen when it did in 1973? >> you bet. if there is one word i could use for what was different about motorola, it was the word passion. my colleagues at motorola were
passionate about what they did. that meant that when you got up in the morning, you could not wait to get to work, because you were involved in ideas, taking things happen, and understanding things. it was the luckiest thing that ever happens to me, when i moved to motorola. people have asked me whether i made a lot of money out of all of these inventions i did. i tell them, when i joined motorola, they had a little document i had to sign that said i turned over all my future intellectual property to motorola, and for that they gave me a dollar. >> a dollar was a dollar then, remember. >> that was the best investment i ever made. motorola provided me with the environment and the support. that may tell you, for somebody that was a maverick like i was, surviving in a corporation really said something about the
corporation. >> i understand that they were willing to support this technology financially for some 20 years or so without earning a dime from it. why do you think they get to have that deferred satisfaction with this? why did that happen? >> we started the effort -- at&t made the announcement in 1969. we knew this would have impact on our business, and we started to invest at that time, and continued to invest to the extent of -- we are talking about 1970 dollars. overall, invested $100 million without selling a single product until 1983. it takes management to have an understanding.
to let that happen. >> not a usual expectation today of corporations. and you tell us something about the people who surrounded you, and how they helped create a nurturing environment, some of your colleagues that you were working with when you develop the cell phone? >> one of the issues was that we did not have much time. i had to pull together the people in our organization. even though i ran a division at that time, the best people were not necessarily in my organization. the first people i approached were our industrial designers, none of whom worked for me. i told them what the concept was. we are going to build a cell phone. what is a cell phone? i described it to them. they got so excited that the head of the group stopped all work that they were doing for everybody else in our company. they did not stop charging for
their time, but they stopped working for them, and they started working to create this new phone. two weeks later, i bought them all dinner. and five designers showed me the phones they had created, and they were beautiful. they had a flip phone. everybody here knows what a flip phone is. they had a slider phone. they had a phone that looked like a capsule. and then they had the phone we ended up selecting. when do i get to -- >> totally up to you. >> i ended up picking that phone. but they were wonderful. and this phone was this big. about the size of a modern cell phone. and then i had to get somebody to do the insides, because -- [laughter] this was just an empty box. we went to the engineers.
i said before, we had all these new techniques that made things miniature. you had to put several thousand transistors. into this thing and these were individual components -- coils, capacitors. the phone started growing and growing and growing. and by the time they got done, we ended up with a phone that we could take to new york, where we did a rehearsal, and then to washington, where we had to show it to the people we were trying to impress. >> let's see the phone. man. >> there it is. >> there we go. [laughter] [applause] you can see how big it is. it really grew. i really mean it. the other one was shaped like this, but it was this big. this phone weighs over a kilo, about 2.5 pounds.
the battery lasts for 20 minutes of talking. not a problem. you could not hold it up for 20 minutes, it was so heavy. [laughter] but we took it to new york and to washington, and it did just what we wanted it to do. it got a lot of attention. people saw that you could make this work. we build a cellular system in new york and another one in washington. we took the congressmen, senators, and fcc commissioners for a drive through the city. a very carefully selected drive, as we knew it was going to work at every point along that drive. they got an idea of the vision that we had, of the freedom that you have when you can talk anywhere. and that was the beginning. >> bravo. is that when you first spoke on the cell phone, at that public demonstration?
>> it was the first public call. the engineers did a lot of phone calls before they let me. >> alexander graham bell said, mr. watson, come here, i want to see you. samuel morse keyed in, from the bible, what has god wrought. what did you say and who did you talk to? >> i have no idea where the idea came from. it occurred to me that our enemy was bell systems. and the guy that was running the bell system program, by no means an enemy, but he was certainly a rival, was a guy named joel engel. joel, i apologize to you, if you are watching this broadcast. i called joel. amazingly enough -- talk about a historic moment. he answered the phone himself, which in itself was an unusual event.
i told him, joel, i am calling you from a cellular phone. but a real cellular phone. a personal, portable, hand-held cellular phone. and there was silence at the other end of the line, for obvious reasons. and joel was very polite to me. he still is. but that turned out to be a historical moment, at least for me. ask how long did it take him to pick himself up off the floor for the event? >> how long did it take? >> to get him off the floor. how important was the competition at bell labs for the birth of this instrument? >> the real competition was the idea of getting these radio channels assigned properly. and the fcc finally came through. not too many months after we made our demonstrations in new york and in washington, the fcc announced that they were going
to have competition, and that the industry would make a decision about what the nature of the system was going to be, not just bell laboratories. in the process of formalizing what they decided -- it ended up taking 10 years, because we had to finish the technology. we had to change the system that bell laboratories have come up with so that portables would work. their system was designed for car telephones. and then the hardest part of all was, if there was going to be competition, you need competitors. who were the competitors going to be? if there is one thing that governments do not do very quickly, it is make decisions. that process took, at least to those of us who were trying to see it happen -- it seemed to take forever. in october of 1983, the bell
system turned on their commercial service in chicago. and a couple months later, here in washington, d c, and independent company turned on their system. the only difference to those systems was that there were portable phones in the washington system. washington really was the -- >> i remember that time, and the cell phone was being proposed and tested in washington. i still could not figure out what it was about. you carry a phone booth around with you when you go? obviously people don't, because you hear them all the time. let us talk more about the competition. how important was the competition in terms of spurring the development of the cell phone. would it have mattered if there were no bell labs computing with you? -- competing with you? >> interestingly enough, the
bell system had enormous resources. and they were ready to offer their service, probably by 1980 or 1981. we actually held them off. the world would have seen cellular telephony sooner if we had not, we at motorola, had not been around. if you think about it, the bell system predicted that there would be, in the united states, as many as 2 million cell phones. and that would never grow any more than that. the maximum number of cell phones in the united states that were car phones was 2 million. that was a lot of phones at that time. but by the time we got to the 2 million point, people had realized the car phone was really not the object. freedom was the object.
and the car phone just went away. all phones became cellular phones. it is my view, and it is just an opinion, though we accelerated the introduction of portable telephony by some years. it would have happened anyway, because it was the right way to go. >> when was the patent? when was the key patent? >> remember, all inventions -- every invention -- i do not know if you would agree with this -- is based upon other people's inventions. >> i am a historian. i have to believe that. otherwise, i have nothing to do. [laughter] >> even the wheel was based on -- >> who was that? [laughter] >> you are supposed to figure those things out. >> i was afraid of that. when was the patent? you did have a patent. i have read it. >> it was only for the portability part of it.
it had to build a whole system to make it happen. >> when was the key patent? >> issued in 1973. >> you are correct. [laughter] >> by the time these patents got implemented, they had almost run out. the patents themselves -- even bell system -- they never really were obstacles to anybody, and they also did not generate any money. >> we know about radio and walkie-talkies and pagers and car phones. possible predecessors for the cell phone. but where did the idea for the cell phone conference? -- come from? >> first of all, anybody here know what cellular telephony is? >> can you tell us in late terms, public terms i would understand? >> i've had lunch with some really smart people today and had to teach them.
radio was invented -- the ideas for radio happened in the 19th century. the actual invention of radio itself -- it depends where you come from. if you come from britain or italy, marconi invented radio. if you happen to come from russia, every year, they celebrate radio day in honor of alexander popov. if you are from india, everyone knows a fellow named bose invented radio. in this country, we gave the patent to a guy named tesla, nikolai tesla. the koreans and japanese have not weighed in yet, but they are making all the radios now. radio is not a new phenomenon. radio grew -- marconi's work
happened at the turn-of-the-century. marconi is the first person to have actually sent a radio signal across the ocean. it was a very slow signal. you could only have one conversation like that in the whole world, when he did that. hasn't radio changed a lot since then? the concept of two-way radio did not happen until about 30 years later. and the concepts of fm radio and today digital radio kind of grew. radio has been a continually evolving technology. >> what about walkie-talkies and pagers? are those part of the roots of this? >> that is interesting. the concept of personal communications did not get launched until world war ii, when the army discovered that it was really important for them to
be in contact with the infantrymen. they asked motorola to build a handheld radio. the battery technology was such at that time that the battery itself was about four times bigger than this phone. and the transistor had not been invented, so you had to have vacuum tubes. but motorola created a thing called the walkie-talkie, which ended up being built by motorola and other companies. it was about this big, but it could be carried by a person. now, we got the flavor of what this freedom was like of people being around. by 1970, we had reduced the size of this walkie-talkie, and we had created a product much like the first cell phone, that we called a handy talkie. at that time, we were looking for something very portable and
much lower in cost. my group came up with the radio pager. a pager started out being a very simple device that allowed you to be anywhere, and it just rang a bell. it just beeped to let you know somebody wanted to reach you. that really simple concept changed the lives of millions of people. who am i talking about? well, there were doctors who were trapped in their hospitals. the had a really sick patient. they wanted to know if anything had changed. now, a doctor was free to attend to other patients, they could take a day off, because he knew that if there was an emergency, he could be reached. profound change in the world. a little device like that. and of course, once we understood that, it became obvious that car telephones were not the answer. personal communications was
really going to be important. >> we have already talked about one invention depending on another, building on the accomplishments of others, and there are predecessors. that this is clearly a break, the cell phone. i think your answer is going to be no, but i will try again. was there a eureka moment for you when you came up with this? >> well, not really. there was a period of time when i had to persuade a bunch of other people, the management and all the people who worked on it, that this was a practical idea, that we ought to do it. if i really think about it, the genesis of this invention was really my entire life. i started out as a youngster. i do not know who introduced me to mythology, but i read every book that i could read about the gods and goddesses, this mythological world. i grew into science fiction.
there are different kinds of engineers. some engineers build things, and some engineers dream a lot. i do not have to tell you which kind i was. >> is the story true that you were inspired by captain kirk, the communicator on star trek? >> every once in a while, you do something that you are kind of storied for. >> sorry about that. >> these guys made a movie. i do not want to advertise. it was called, "how william shatner changed the world." they came to my house with all of these truths and got me all involved in the glamour of moviemaking. and they handed me this star trek communicator. everybody here knows what that is. captain kirk would flip this thing open. they told me to walk up and down the beach, flipping the phone up and down, so i could demonstrate that captain kirk gave us idea. but the whole concept of portability really started with
world war ii. "star trek" did not start until the 1960's. the actual flip phone, which you are going to see a little later, did not happen until 1986. there was not much of a connection to "star trek," other than it was a pretty good program. >> we will kill that urban legend here today. let us touch one other subject that we have been dancing around for some time. you are quoted as saying that the personal telephone is something that would represent an individual, so you can assign a number not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person. we have a group of anthropologists in the front row here. how would you respond to anthropologists who say, what did you mean by that? does it have to do with being an individualist? why is it so important for you to have calls to a person rather than a place? other than the most obvious
thing, that you can work around. >> isn't that obvious to everybody? it is really true today. when you call an individual, you really do expect a person to answer the phone, right? when i grew up, for most of my life, when you called, you did not know who was going to answer, because you were calling a location. most of the time, somebody had to call somebody else. when i called joel, i never expected him to answer that phone. i was sure his secretary would answer. i think that difference is really profound. if you think about that, it is really a lot more efficient. your intent when you make a phone call is to talk to somebody. why can't you talk to that person directly instead of going through this extra process? efficiency is a big thing to me. i think efficiency is what makes our lives more comfortable. it makes us richer.
it solves the -- ultimately will solve the poverty problem. and you can apply this concept of efficiency to almost everything in our society. >> what are you going to do when you get an answering machine? you usually get voicemail. they do not answer phones anymore. >> but it is a personal voicemail. >> fair enough. >> you thought you would catch me on that. >> i did. i have been laying this trap the whole time. it did not go anywhere. what is, to you, was the most difficult part of the problem when you created the cell phone? >> if you ask me what part did i make the biggest contribution -- it was really getting people excited about what this idea was. you were an easy audience.
everybody here has a cell phone. is there anybody here that does not have a cell phone? there is usually one person that is trying to make a statement. >> she is five years old. >> i don't have to sell you, but i have to tell you that in 1973, there were a lot of naysayers. convincing a company that they should invest hard-earned dollars, everybody had to come to work every morning and spend these dollars, and they should spend these things on a concept that may or may not even be successful, and even if it was successful, the company may not be successful. our management was very forward-looking. the company was run by a second-generation man named bob galvin, just a wonderful guy. the team is passionate.
they really understood the nature of the work. but there were still bean counters. does everybody know what a bean counter is? >> oh, do i. >> getting through all those obstacles was a continuous job that lasted for 10 years. there were people throughout the process, from the time the phone was invented until the services happened who said why are we spending all this money? the second problem with the technological problem. the guys who did that, everything we did on the phone was the first time. it was the first time anyone had operated at 1000 megahertz. today we operate a 2500 megahertz and it's like falling off a log, but at that time, it was the first time, so we had to create special transmitting and receiving devices.
it was the first time anyone had built a handheld phone that could talk and listen at the same time. up until then you had to push a button to talk and then you let the button go and then you listened. it was the first time anyone had built a radio that had hundreds of radio channels that anyone could access. up until then, radio would operate on one frequency, maybe two or three. your cell phones all operate on well over 1000 different possible channels. all of this had to be accomplished, and it took some real genius to do that. >> it certainly took a genius to do that.
was there a moment of despair for you when you doubted that maybe this could ever be done? >> was i scared? >> i might say that, too. >> never. the only time i get scared about something is when i get up on the ski slopes, and then i really am scared. but i knew this thing could be done. there were times, when we did our demonstrations -- remember now, with thousands of parts, and there were only two of these radios ever built, the chances of this breaking were very high. every time we demonstrated this unit, we had an engineer standing by just in case it broke, and we had an extra unit just in case it happened. that was a little scary. >> well, in honor of -- i don't know what you call it, the brick. fred? i don't know what you call it. marty? we have been able to find a couple of other devices in the evolution of the phone.
my colleague will demonstrate a couple of these. tell us about the dynatech here. can you tell us about this one here? why don't you describe that one for us? isn't this the first commercial version? >> i can't touch this. >> yeah, you can. >> this phone was introduced in 1983. starting with this phone, we actually created three additional generations, each time making it a little smaller, a little lighter, more integrated circuits, and finally, when we introduced this, this unit weighed about a pound and a half. in two years, we managed to make the batteries smaller. there was another unit that weighed only a pound. this is state-of-the-art from 1983 until about 1987.
>> did anybody here own one of these? >> for a period of four years, this was the best you could do. >> did anybody own one of these? how about the little girl over here. did you have one? no. your dad had one. her dad had one. >> just so she didn't say her grandfather did. >> she could. this is a darling in our collection is the startac. >> that is the startac. that was the next generation. this is where the flip phone came in. i can't say whether "star trek" was the inspiration, but whoever figured this out really was a genius, because even today, i still think flip phones really are useful. my wife invented a phone called the jitterbug.
does anybody here know what the jitterbug is? a jitterbug phone is designed for people who don't need all the gadgets, that really want to be able to talk and listen, and to do it without having to read the instruction book. my wife conceived of this and built the whole system. she made this thing into a flip phone because you could have buttons that could not be pushed unless you opened the phone and did it deliberately. these were other little details because the details were important. for example, there is actually an on-off switch. you don't have to remember that in order to turn the phone on, you have to hold it at a certain angle. >> what is your wife's name? >> arlene. arlene is known as the first lady of wireless.
i am not trying to sell jitterbug now. >> that is her job, right? >> most of you are too young to appreciate it, but when you push the zero button on the jitterbug phone, an operator answers. >> a real operator? >> and an operator, if you did this, would say yes, arlene, what can i do for you? >> a real person? >> a real person who could make a phone call for you. you could say get my daughter on the phone. the principle here is everybody is different from everybody else. you ought to be able to get a phone that does what you wanted to do, and it ought to be easy to use. even these things should be easy. they aren't. but they should be. >> what is the date of the startac. >> around 1987 or 1988. >> the startac was 1996, i think. >> 1996? >> i think. what does our label say? >> it's all passing into one big
day to me. >> really? we have to move along now. i will just observe that there is an article in the "new york times" today pointing out that phones are getting larger again. there is something called "phablets" on the market now. p.h. >> i hate the term phone is applied to this thing that we carry because it really isn't a phone anymore. it's a phone and 100 other things.
i think phablet is terrible. these things about the size of the phone, there are going to be small phones and big phones. now there is a trend for bigger phones. they maybe have overdone it with a small phones. but the next generation of phones in the next 10 years will be so small you won't know they are there. that's already started with the google glass, which, if you think about it, is another form of phone. as i said, there are going to be phones that are going to be so small they may be embedded under your skin so that they are just a part of you. think about not ever having to charge the battery because you're using your own body as the power supply. >> i can't wait for that. [laughter] >> that's because you are an old fuddy-duddy. [laughter] >> that's right. can't wait. what do you think about smartphones, then? >> i am not enchanted by smartphones, just for the reasons i discussed before. they are difficult to use.
they break one of my fundamental principles. think about -- what is technology? technology is the application of science to make products and services that make the lives of people better. if it does not make your life better, it is not good technology. the best technology does things for you and you don't even know it's there. then we have steve jobs and bill gates come long and they create all of these amazing tools, but in order to use these tools you have to become an engineer. i don't think that's very good technology. and i don't think putting us all in the same box so that everybody uses an android phone or an apple -- not much difference between those interfaces -- that is a presumption i don't agree. i think we are all different from each other, and we ought to have the ability of designing our own phone whenever we would like.
small ones, big ones, all of these things ought to be intuitive. we ought to be able to use them without the instruction manual. have you ever looked at the instruction manuals for most phones today? they're bigger than the phones and heavier. we are starting to move in that direction. >> that is a negative endorsement of the smartphone. >> i'm sorry? >> i was just kidding that it is a negative endorsement of the smartphone. >> i think the smartphones are wonderful electronics technology, but not yet very good people technology. >> why don't we wrap up this part of the conversation with your thoughts about cell phones making a positive difference in our society. what areas do you think will feel the beneficial impact of cell phones? >> the biggest one that has happened is productivity.
everybody knows that. what is the one scarce commodity that we have that will always be scarce? that is time. cell phones somehow or other make our lives more efficient. we travel less. we are more effective, and i am talking about everybody. there are over 6 billion cell phones in the world today. only 7 billion people, 6 billion cell phones. some of the people that are benefiting from this cannot afford to have a cell phone as a toy or a convenience. it is a basic part of their livelihood. there is a woman in india who bought her cell phone based on micro-financing, who offers cell phone service to the people in her village who are farmers, and they get on the phone and call the neighboring villages to find out where they can get the best price for their products. now just think about who are the beneficiaries of that.
the woman is. the farmer is. the people who get the fresh vegetables, because the price will go down. that is a picture of what i think the most important benefit of cellular technology is, productivity. >> thank you. we're going to move to audience questions at this point. please, because we are being recorded, move to the microphones on either side. and while people are going there, i just have another question. we actually have a question already. why don't we just go to you? >> mr. cooper, thank you for this great contribution. when i first heard about cell phones, i was so excited about it. this was in the 1980's, when i was hearing about the breakup of at&t, and they had a chance to sell them with the sears business center in 1984.
i was under the impression that this technology was available starting in the 1960's. my question is -- where was the product actually testmarketed? was it europe and japan? where was the cell phone testmarketed? >> that is very interesting. nobody has ever asked me that question that way. when it comes to the actual testing of the cell phone, there was a trial in chicago in 1979, but that was 2000 car telephones. guess who put on that trial? and then another trial here in washington by an independent carrier. that was primarily portables. i don't know if either of those are very effective in the test
market. i must tell you that the investment in cellular, the technology investment and the capital investment, was all based on faith. the people who did it were confident they would get a reasonable number of people, enough to support all of these stations that had to be built and all the people that had to support these systems. so, to tell you the truth, i think the test market was the real market, real people. who were the first people, do you think, who bought cell phones? the first reaction you would have was that it must've been michael douglas, right? it turns out it was people like real estate agents. real estate agents in the past would either have to sit in the office waiting for the phone to ring or show somebody the house.
if she was doing one, she could not do the other. just think about what the cell phone does for a real estate agent. it doubles her productivity. she can now show the house and be available. when that caught on, that is when the real market started, when people realized the value of freedom. thank you for your excellent question. >> sonia? >> hi, mr. cooper. thank you for being here today. the question i have for you is about that dinner with the engineers. you mentioned they were excited and they were all there to show you what they had come up with with their models. whatever happened to those models? where are those prototypes? part two of the question is, in developing the cell phone, i always think tools and materials are really important. how was it decided what kinds of tools and materials would be used, and were other inventions made to create some of those components in order to create those prototypes?
>> the first question is what happened to the prototypes. >> because we're in a museum. the other question is what kind of tools were developed for making the cell phone. >> the prototype is simple. only when you come to washington and meet people like the wonderful guys, like the people at the smithsonian, who really worry about these prototypes stating into history. the prototypes still exist. i am keeping my eye on it. this is an exact copy, but the key engineer who did the part i described that has hundreds of channels, he still has the original. don knows that if some point he is going to contribute that to the smithsonian institution. as far as the tools that were concerned, everything that we did that was new had to be created from scratch. there was no test equipment to handle hundreds of channels. there was no test equipment to handle this very high frequency. people don't realize that building a cell phone, which is
a marvelous achievement in itself -- the modern cell phone is just amazing -- there is a whole infrastructure, everything you see around washington with the antennas, all of that has to be made. the network that connects them, all of the computers, the test equipment. it is really creating an entire new industry. >> let's move to the side. kate? >> i was really struck about what you said about being able to reach a person rather than up place. i think about in high school of having to race my dad to the phone in case a boy was calling.
so much has been written about people no longer calling each other and instead texting each other all the time. as the inventor of the cell phone, i wonder what you think about that. how the cell phone has changed and affected society? >> she is concerned about how our cell phones have affected our interpersonal relationships and society in general. >> you really should be asking that question of the anthropologist sitting here. >> they will have their day up here. >> any disruptive technology you have will change the way people behave, but you still can't change the basics of human nature. people have a thirst for dealing with other people. so despite the fact that they can talk to them remotely without ever looking at them, they are still going to search for the personal relationship. they're going to change their behavior, and all i can do is
hope that whatever negatives there are -- meaning less personal communication -- is counteracted by the fact that there is more productivity and we live better. you give up a little, you get something in return. i am confident that something will surround the cell phone and end up in your positive influence in our lives. but i told you before, i am an optimist, and there are people who disagree with me. >> a question on the side. eric? >> mr. cooper, thanks for being here today. my question is about the systems nature of the cell phone. it is a great achievement to build the transmitter and receiver, but one transmitter and receiver does not do too much. you need a critical mass of subscribers, cell phone towers, a customer service agent to take the order. you need all these parts of the system to make it function as a usable utility for end users.
i was wondering if you could say little bit more about how that was built out at motorola, and how motorola got into the business side of it, and how that works. >> wow, is that ever a profound question. i could answer it with a profound answer. like from "uncle tom's cabin." it was like toffee. it just grew. they told me not to make this technical, and it really isn't very technical. on the other hand, we engineers have a way of taking any simple thing and making it really complicated. the thing that is unique about cellular telepathy is there are only so many radiofrequencies, radio stations that are available to hold conversations. the way we did it in the old days is you put up one tower in
the middle of the city and you have radiofrequency for every single conversation. well, those systems work pretty well if you are satisfied with 30 people being able to talk in an entire city. the idea of cellular was to break the city up into a bunch of individual stations and when the stations are far apart, you could use the frequencies over and over again throughout the city. the unique part was that you could start with only a few cells, minimal investment. as you add subscribers, you put up more towers. you keep doing that to the point where today, you could stand on the street corner in washington and, if you look carefully, you could see maybe three or four different cell sites. have we reached the limit there?
not really. we have ways now of putting what we call smart antennas on the cell sites and these antennas can actually reach out to you and give you your own private cell. that is all technology that is starting to happen. as i said, the unique part is you only adopt the technology when you need it. if we keep doing things like watching tv programs or movies on your cell phone -- and i can't imagine how anybody ever does that, which only proves that i am a fuddy-duddy as well -- >> i would never say that. >> but when you do that, you're going to need a lot of cell sites and technology, but by then, the cost of producing it is going to go down, and our children are not going to be watching movies on their cell phones, i guess. >> a question over here, josh. >> marty, i am not sure why i did not ask you this earlier.
thinking about the panel and our project on contemporary cell phone repair, one of the observations we have made is the way to which apple and other brands are and aren't repairable. we are shifting in some ways into a more disposable, you know, you finish with your cell phone and you get a new one. i am thinking about when you and the motorola group invented the day tech, did you build in a repair process, or did you think of them as one-off machines? did motorola have a repair sector that dealt with these devices as they broke down? >> he was wondering if you were forseeing the need to repair these phones, and if you built a process for ease of repair. >> if you think about it, in the old days, you had to repair them because the things were so costly. do you know how much these phones cost?
>> i was going to ask you that. >> $4000 in 1983, which was equivalent to $10,000 today. if you're going to spend $10,000 on a phone, you darn well have to be able to repair it. it's my belief that at some point the phones are going to be so simple in construction that we are going to combine all these things. it will be cheaper to replace a phone than to repair it, and we are almost at that stage today. this idea you mentioned how short the lifetime of a phone is -- the rest of the world is not like me -- i get a phone every three months or so because i am dying to see what the new technology is. but even the idea of replacing your phone every two years does not make a lot of sense to me. does it make sense to people
here? people do not replace their cars every two years -- or very few people do. i think that is a product of early stages. at some point, we are going to learn how to use them well enough -- the worst thing about these phones, to me, is that the real potential has not been realized yet. what is the most important thing that all of you do on your phones today? first is talking. is that true? is there anybody here who does not think talking is the most important thing? what's number two? texting. >> number one. >> i'm sorry? >> he said music. >> you think music is more important? >> we have real data here. >> let me tell you what i am getting at. talking and texting are life changing things.
music, being able to get your e-mail 15 minutes sooner than you would have gotten it if you had waited until you got home, twitter, facebook, all these other things are conveniences, they are useful -- they are not society changing and life-changing. but i do think that the phone -- i can't believe i am calling it that. this device -- whatever you're calling it, has the potential to do a whole bunch of other life-changing things. there is all kind of stuff on the web, including a bunch of speeches i have given, but i think our educational system is going to be revolutionized because giving a lecture now is a pointless exercise. they tell me. professors tell me this. i don't know if these professors agree with me. the head of olin college -- they tell me that if a professor gets up and starts talking to a bunch
of students who are sitting there with her ipads and computers, and they have access to all the world's information. how dare this professor think he can contribute material to that? i apologize, joel. that is an extreme example. but we are going to work out ways that we get the kids -- these games that they're playing now -- turn those games into educational tools, so the children are learning as they play these games and move ahead at their own rate, not at the rate were somebody says all nine-year-olds get one education, all 10-year-olds get another. they will get their information transfer out in the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. then they go to school to interact with other children,
other students, to interact with professors and absorb their wisdom, learn how to use the tools and get the personal interaction that you could only do face-to-face. to me, that is a life-changing thing, and that is what the phone is really going to do in the future. the same thing is going to happen in health care, and the same thing is going to happen as we learn how to use this to run our daily lives and as we run our businesses. it is gradually going to happen without us even knowing, but it is going to have a profound effect. it is going to make the wheels of progress move much faster and much more efficiently, and that is going to have a huge impact. >> mr. professor joel, i heard you say get a job. [laughter] i think we have time for two more questions.
we have a question over here. >> hi, mr. cooper. as a history of technology geek, it's really exciting to meet you, so thank you for being here. you mentioned when you worked at motorola in the 1970's that they were willing to invest tremendous amounts of money and have patents that may or may not pay off or provide any profits. during that time, there was also bell labs and others that were willing to do research and actually provide a lot of money into investing into technology that may not be profitable. these days it is all profit driven. are you concerned about the inventions that are lost because they are so focused on money and patents? we are not going to get another ethernet because we are only worried about profits.
>> she's talking about the short bottom line now, the financial bottom line for invention and corporations, is this going to stifle innovation that requires nurturing over a period of time? >> the short answer to that -- there is no short answer. i happen to be a strong believer in the capitalist system. but let me tell you why, because my belief is based upon technical knowledge. systems that are hierarchical, namely there is a one decision-maker, and everybody follows that decision-maker's path, are fundamentally inefficient. because our systems, the way we make products and turn inventions into a product is so complex now.
there's no one person smart enough to do that. there are some people who do it better than others, and i guess you have to give steve jobs credit for that. steve jobs ended up making a product that he liked. lucky for him it turns out a billion other people happen to like that product. the best systems are ones that are self organizing, namely, you create some rules and if everybody follows the rules, the things you want to happen happen just because of feedback. if you do something wrong because you are breaking the rule, you get feedback and you change the behavior. that is what our capitalist system does. that is what our democratic system does. and one of the natures of these self organizing systems is during this process, during the times at when people are just
experimenting, things look like they are really chaotic. but guess what? when all this chaos disappears, all the ups and downs happen to you, you end up with the best possible answer. not the answer that one guy thought of, but the best possible answer. the key issue is coming up with the right rules. i'm going in a roundabout way of answering your question. if you set up the right rules of what corporations can and cannot do, and what the rights of people are, and if you set up those rules right, when the corporations do what is right for them, it will be right for society. the simple answer is, i do not think corporations stifle inventions because sooner or later, the inventors end up prevailing.
if society need something, they will extract it. i doubt you can come up with any single invention that got stifled. but i would love for you to try. i'm sorry, my plane does not leave until 7:00. so i can -- [laughter] when i was young, people talked about the corporations were stifling innovation. they could build a car that could go 100 miles per gallon. and i'm really serious. there are people who believe general motors could build an efficient car but they were not doing that because they were in cahoots with the oil companies. those same people, if they
survived as long as i have, they will say, i told you. that is not so. it turns out their technology did not exist at that time. as soon as the pressures made it practical to put more money into a car, more research and development, because oil costs so much, the system somehow made all these things happen. suddenly we have cars that will go 100 miles per gallon or 30 or 40. that's what i believe. thank you for asking that question, though. we capitalists are not all that bad. >> question over here. >> the technology is racing so fast, and the utility of these devices is multiplying also so quickly. what do you think will happen with the marketing of this? that cost $4000 in 1984.
a cell phone is like $600 now, you can buy one for $200. where will it be 10 years from now, when -- you mentioned implants -- how do you pay for this? what will the consumer be paying for this kind of service? >> i'm an engineer, so i don't know anything about marketing. it will be different and efficient because we have all these communications tools. marketing is changing dramatically. over the last 10 or 15 years, probably the majority of marketing is happening on the internet. when was the internet? probably the majority of marketing is happening on the internet. i have a better example -- facebook, until two years ago, all their facebook apps were on computers and tablets.
somebody four years ago decided that the cell phone would be their future. facebook is entertainment, but it's really marketing, right? that's how they get all their revenues. two years ago, the facebook revenues and marketing revenues were zero for cell phones. all their revenues came from computers. today it is 50%. i only mention that to you as an indication of how fast the world is changing in that regard. the only thing that slows it down is us. people are fundamentally conservative. technology always moves faster than people. as people get flexible enough to adopt these new things, things change. but the thing that keeps things from getting out of hand is the fact that we are conservative, and in a free market, it is the
consumer who is the king. people don't buy things. there is not the capital to make things progress. >> a question on this side again. tonya? >> mr. cooper, you refer to yourself as an engineer, but you are also an inventor. what are you always thinking about as the next invention for your ideas? >> what's cooking in your mind about what your next invention is going to be? >> you think of what inventions are, they are ideas that have other constraints on them. i only focus on the idea parts. i'm still working on getting people -- what's the obstacle to all these grand futures i described?
if the cost of the service and the cost of these devices we have does not get much lower, we will never do all those things. if you are going to give every child a computer, which has to happen -- i'm talking about every child, not just the wealthy people in this country. i'm talking about every child in the world is what the objective is. we will have to get the cost of the devices down, more importantly the cost of the service down. i'm working really hard to get people to use what i call more specially efficient technology. if they use the radio channels more efficiently, this would happen. the cost of using those channels comes down. we will not achieve this wonderful future i talked about with at $60 a month for internet service, which is what it costs today. to have everyone one of our children, every student have these things, that service has
got to be five dollars or $10 a month at the most. all of that is achievable. you look at the curve of how things are improving. that will happen, but it will take new technology. when it comes to the radio channels, the reason i come to washington so often is because the radio is controlled by the government. the government does not always quickly do the right thing. we have things called auctions. they auction off the radio channels. they get some short-term dollars but don't think about what the long-term impact is. in my ineffective way, i come here and preach, just like i am doing to you guys, and try to make things a little bit better.
every once in a while, if you hang around long enough, and i have been lucky, you do have a little bit of impact. there are people in washington to talk about efficiency. it's going to happen. >> another question on the right side. >> mr. cooper, you said that your invention was throughout your lifetime, right? and it was a quest of yours. would you mind sharing with us some of your process or experiences in your process through your vision to what you thought the cell phone could accomplish, and what would be your advice of people that are intending to invent or create or transform something today? >> well, first of all, there is no way that i would suggest anybody be like me.
i was lucky enough to be around people who tolerated me and let me get away with all these things. for those people that have that bent, the most important thing to me is to have your mind run free. believing that dreaming is not a bad thing. you have to fit the dreaming in with living, and occasionally that is a little hard. when it comes to inventing, the first thing is the ability to let your mind run free. the second one is the curiosity. i cannot tell you where that came from. every time i look at whether it is a machine -- at anything -- i am dying to know how it works and what's behind it and what are the ideas. where the curiosity came from, i cannot tell you.
the third attribute is you have to believe once you know how things work, you have to believe that maybe you can make them work better. that's where everything comes together. if you can dream and understand how things work, part of that is education, right? you cannot know how things work unless you spend a lot of time understanding the physics or whatever is behind it. my wife is the ultimate in that regard. my wife never stops. everything she looks at, she tries to figure out how to make it better. occasionally, when it is things that she has control over, she actually goes and does it. that is one of the attributes of inventors. you've got to be unhappy with the way things are and want to change it.
>> thank you. >> another question on the left here. >> hello, mr. cooper, thank you for coming. touching on something you mentioned earlier, about how especially for our modern, mobile devices, how the phone is only part of what they do, do you think there is a generational component to that? i have a cell phone and i can go days without actually using it as a phone. i was wondering what your thoughts are about where this is going. i know you said facebook is a diversion. there are times when that is a primary means of communicating with people that i use whether i am at home. i don't have a solid phone at home. i tend to use the internet components of it more than picking up and calling my mother component of it, to the point that when there are major crises, people will notify each other on social media or when major events are happening, people are recording and posting online.
do you think these mass interactions will become more important than the one-on-one focus that a cell phone has? >> she is essentially saying where do you see the ark of the cell phone in terms of its development, and is it going to go -- you think it's going to go more towards mass media than the one-on-one usage of the cell phone? >> it's another one of these questions that you could spend a week looking at it. the most important thing that is happening in our society in general has to do with all products and service -- and
health care -- is customization. the history of our society is we like to put people in groups and serve groups. one example -- in health care, when you see the doctor, the doctor looks at you. he does not see an individual. he sees the category. everyone of a certain age, a certain sex is subject to certain problems. you are treated like a statistic. the future is treating everybody like an individual. the way you do that is by connecting that person and treating that person -- individual characteristics separately. it is a long way around saying that the cell phone is going to fit into whatever becomes useful in society. if mass media is more effective with individual devices than broadcasting, then that is what will happen. remember, i talked about these self organizing systems.
it's going to come out as a result of trial and error. we will have all kinds of failures and people trying stuff out. we will have these companies that are going through multi-billions of dollars and go down to nothing because we are doing what free societies ought to do -- we are letting people exercise their creativity, and sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong, but what comes out of it will be the things that make our lives better. i know that's a more general answer than you were looking for. >> you are a man of many things. but one thing for sure now, you are no fuddy-duddy, marty. >> that is the greatest complement in the world. thank you so much. [applause] >> i want to thank the audience. you have been a tremendous audience. stay tuned for future events of the cell phone consortium.
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